Gradel – MK Dons vs Leicester City – 2009

1 02 2011

David Bevan is the editor of The Seventy Two, an independent site offering in-depth opinion on the football league. You can follow The Seventy Two on Twitter @the72football … Here’s David’s favourite goal:

I have celebrated Leicester City goals in many different ways. I once cut my leg open at Craven Cottage, for example, trying to charge into the aisle when James Wesolowski fired us into a 3-1 lead in an FA Cup third round replay in January 2007 (we lost 4-3). At Wembley, I stood in open-mouthed disbelief for a split second when Steve Claridge shinned us into the Premier League. Then I went absolutely mental, along with 40,000 others.
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That feeling of sharing a moment of absolute ecstasy with thousands of people (careful now) is something all football fans can relate to. But have you ever seen your team score a goal that made your knees buckle beneath you from a combination of pride, defiance and disbelief? I have. Twas this…
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Saturday 28th February 2009. Leicester have gone twenty-one games without defeat in League One. There is an incredible sense of unity among players, management and supporters. We are travelling to parts of the country we have rarely been to before and, thankfully, winning. We went to Carlisle and won. We went to Yeovil and won. Leyton Orient. Bristol Rovers. Scunthorpe. Won. Won. Won.
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But now we are going to Milton Keynes. There shouldn’t even be a league club to visit in Milton Keynes. We are 2-1 down. There are five minutes of injury time signalled. It’s the 96th minute. We have been comprehensively outplayed. We have to lose the record eventually. We deserve to lose this game. A growing part of me hates myself for not boycotting the game, but this feeling doesn’t even last until the final whistle.
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We win a very dodgy free kick on the edge of their box. Max Gradel takes it. Gradel had to take it. A product of the Academy, an exciting talent who wore lime green boots and sported a vertical ginger stripe of hair, who had enjoyed a thrilling loan spell at Bournemouth and shown glimpses of genius in his time so far with our club. 
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But more than that. A young man who had recently tragically lost his mother and taken care of his brothers and sisters after her passing. Who had arrived from the Cote d’Ivoire and made lifelong friends among our players and supporters. He had to take it.
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There were 4,500 Leicester fans gathered behind the goal he now faces. Some have left early. All the more room in which to celebrate.
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Gradel flights the free kick over the wall. Miguel Angel Llera has backpedalled to man the nearside post at the last minute. A split second too late. Before he settles himself, the ball arcs towards Llera and he can only help it into the net.
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The away end erupts. Gradel runs to the touchline where the entire coaching staff and substitutes have sprinted onto the pitch to meet him. It is the moment which sums up a fantastic season. I was at Wembley when Steve Walsh scored two against Derby, and when Steve Claridge scored against Crystal Palace, and when Matt Elliott’s double sank Tranmere. But this is my favourite goal.

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